Distant Revisit: Purdue University

I visited Purdue University over six years ago. A few things have stayed the same, but some have changed.

  • Purdue has made great strides at improving freshman retention and graduation rates. The university lost over 15 percent of the freshmen who entered in 2005 and graduated less than 40 percent of the class within four years. By 2014 freshman retention rose to 92 percent. Sixty percent of those freshmen graduated four years later. 
  • Applications to Purdue have nearly doubled.  There were 27,500 in 2009 but more than 53,000 in 2018.  Purdue has also welcomed more freshmen. In 2009 the university welcomed 6,200 to campus. Last fall there were more than 8,300. 
  • Engineering admissions are quite competitive. In addition to  excellent grades, the newest engineering students in 2017 had a median SAT score that exceeded 1400. Admissions to the science programs, especially Computer Science, are similarly competitive. Purdue is far from a “safe school” for students who are interested in these majors. 

What are some things that I like about Purdue?

It is one of the best buys in the Big Ten. 

Indiana residents pay less than $10,000 for tuition, non-residents are charged less than $29,000. A non-resident full-pay student will pay $7,000 less in tuition to attend Purdue over Indiana University-Bloomington, and over $20,000 less than s/he would pay to attend the University of Michigan!

The academic choices, especially for students interested in STEM, are amazing. 

There is considerable overlap within Purdue’s undergraduate academic offerings. For example, students interested in computers can study Computer Science in the College of Science, Computer and Information Technology in the College of Technology, Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering, or Management Information Systems in the Krannert School of Management. You can find the best way to learn, if you seek advice early enough in your education.

Alumni are loyal. 

Purdue has the highest alumni giving rate among the public universities in the Big Ten. Nearly a fifth of its alumni make a contribution to their alma mater, impressive for a public university that has not been a major sports power for some time.

This school wants its students to learn and succeed from the start.

  • Peer-assisted voluntary study sessions in eleven “gatekeeper” courses in biology, chemistry, computer science, management, mathematics, physics and statistics have helped struggling students improve their performance. Tutoring is combine with “flipped” lectures, where the main lecture is put online and the lab or recitation section become a primary class. Students are “empowered” to attend the lecture on their schedule.
  • The majority of Purdue’s learning communities are non-residential and faculty-initiated. They have groups of 20 to 30 first-year students who attend classes together.

You don’t need to wait until junior year to get resume-building work experience.

  • Purdue excels in options for internships and cooperative education. Through the Office of Professional Practice, students may choose three-semester or five-semester assignments; the latter alternates school with paid periods of employment and requires five years to complete a degree. U.S. and overseas assignments are available as are individual semester or summer internship programs. Students may apply as early as the first semester of their freshman year.
  • Another rewarding. credit-bearing opportunity is called Engineering Projects In Community Service (EPICS). EPICS teams students in multiple majors to complete projects for non-profit organizations in the Purdue community. Students may take EPICS multiple times for creditor to fulfill the Senior Design capstone course in the College of Engineering. There is also an EPICS Learning Community on campus for freshmen engineering students.

There’s a lot of school pride at a serious school

  • Starting with the Boilermaker Gold Rush, aka first-year student orientation, students become quickly acclimated to Purdue traditions. 
  • The Reamer Club, a student organization, is responsible for the maintenance of the Special. Reamers also appear at sports events to provide fans with directions and assistance. “Purdue Pete,” a cartoon character resembling a boiler operator, leads cheers. They wear hats covered with buttons of all things Purdue. 
  • April is a fun time to be on campus for Springfest, Gala Week and the Grand Prix, a 50-mile go cart race.

The area has a strong local economy, and that means jobs for students and alumni

  • West Lafayette has been more immune to recession than most in the Midwest due to the presence of the university as well as its access to the larger cities. While most Midwestern manufacturing centers lost population from 2000 through 2010, Lafayette grew from approximately 56,000 people to more than 67,000.
  • Lafayette hosts major manufacturing operations for Alcoa, Caterpillar and Subaru as well as several start-ups that have licensed technologies developed at Purdue. The university also has a research park on the southwestern edge of campus.
  • While the economy is strong, living costs are quite reasonable for a college town that hosts such a large university.

But no college is perfect, including Purdue.

  • While students who are more career oriented will love this school, others who are more liberal arts oriented will find fewer options than they might find at Indiana University-Bloomington.
  • The number of academic options can be a curse as well as a blessing. If you don’t seek advising at the right time, you could be in for an extra semester or year of courses. 
  • Merit-based financial aid is limited if you do not come from Indiana.
  • Sports fans are more fair weather at Purdue than they would be at Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State or Wisconsin.  

Purdue University is becoming one of the more popular schools in the country. It’s easy to see why. The business and STEM students get very good jobs and the alumni base is one of the largest in the country. This can also be a fun place to be when you have to take a break from your studies. But you have to be a take-charge person to take advantage of Purdue’s resources in order to succeed from the start of your education. 

Report Card: Purdue University 

  • Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A/A
  • Freshman Retention: A
  • Costs: A (Residents)/B (Non-Residents)
  • Curriculum: A
  • Community: A
  • Comforts: A
  • Connections: A

Need help on the journey to college? Contact me at stauart@educatedquest.com or call me at 609-406-0062.


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